Portrait of an Astro-Zombie...

It's one thing to have a fondness for a cult "Z-movie" director like Ted V. Mikels (The Corpse Grinders, Blood Orgy Of The She-Devils), but it's unique to be able to watch him at work--and even end up in front of the camera.  Read all about it in...



Greetings HORROR-WOOD readers. I just lived one of my life-long dreams…I played an Astro-Zombie in a new Ted V. Mikels film.

Why was this a life-long dream for me? I grew up watching triple feature low budget horror movies at a movie theater in downtown Milwaukee. I would spend my summer vacations watching a triple feature like The Astro-Zombies, House Of Whipcord, and Blood Of Dracula’s Castle. The next day I would sit through the triple feature of kung fu movies playing downstairs. But that’s another story.

If I had to choose five horror or science fiction movies that shaped my interest in collecting movie memorabilia (please check out my previous articles in HORROR-WOOD listed below for more information about my collection), 1968's The Astro-Zombies would be in that top five. I still remember seeing the movie poster hanging outside the theater.

Poster for the original "The Astro-Zombies"...

The poster drew me to the theater. I easily parted with my $1.50 at the box office. How could a teenage boy possibly not want to see "Crazed Corpse Stealers and Brutal Mutants Menacing Beautiful Girls"? This was also one of the first movie poster one-sheets in my collection.

Sadly, the actual Astro-Zombie had very little screen time, but when he picked up that giant machete and began hacking victims….I cheered! Partly because it meant an end to John Carradine’s long scientific explanations to his hunchbacked assistant, but mostly because the magnificent poster art was coming to life on the big screen. Little did I know that I would one day purchase that machete from the film’s director, Ted V. Mikels.

The tool for the job...

The original "Astro Zombie"  machete...

Jump forward in time almost 20 years…. I met Ted at several movie memorabilia conventions. I marveled at his table full of original movie posters, video tapes, photos, lobby cards and movie props. I asked him if he had a Website. He replied that someone had started a Website for him but never finished. I had to build a complete Website for one of my computer classes and The Ted V. Mikels Website was born. The site has been a labor of love from the beginning and I completely enjoy making every update.

After completing The Corpse Grinders 2 (for sale along with more of his films on video and DVD at the Website mentioned above), he mentioned plans for filming Mark Of The Astro-Zombies, his sequel to The Astro-Zombies. I immediately called him and asked if I could be an Astro-Zombie. He replied, "Certainly Dennis, we will begin filming in mid-August. Just let me know when you can be in Las Vegas." I was speechless and immediately bought my plane ticket.

The dream (nightmare?) factory...

My first look at TVM Studios came on a Wednesday afternoon.

Words cannot describe what my eyes saw. It was simply beautiful. Movie pressbooks, photos and posters from Ted’s movies, most neatly matted and framed, covered the walls. I realized instantly that Ted is very proud of his work. The main room consisted of a stage with various 35mm cameras, spotlights, props, and even a complete wall as a blue screen. Upstairs was Ted’s editing room with various monitors, tape players, speakers and editing equipment.

I went out with Ted and his crew for several days shooting. Ted likes to begin his location shoots between three and five o'clock pm. This usually gives the business at the location the opportunity to close for the day. Everyone on the crew was very nice. All of us pitched in to load the van with lights, props, the camera, etc. and again to unload and set up the scene.

No, that's not Tura Satana without her makeup...

Ted seems to have every scene played out in his head before the camera begins filming. Each scene is filmed from different angles with usually three to five takes per scene so everything will fit together perfectly in the final edit. Did I mention Ted likes to be the director, producer, cameraman, and editor? He is a man of many talents.

I was volunteered for my first scene (as an Astro-Zombie victim) by the mask designer, Jay Gowey. I had expected to hide my lack of acting ability behind an Astro-Zombie mask, but Ted encouraged me. He warned me I would probably get blood on my shirt for the scene. I replied that was fine and I would sell the shirt on ebay.

Ted really ought to pay his Astro-Zombies...

Ted directed me and my onscreen girlfriend (Noel, the script supervisor) to walk forward. I was to take the machete stab under my arm and let out a scream of pain, then fall down. The Astro-Zombie then chopped Noel and ran off in search of more victims. I had a wonderful time filming this scene.

My scenes as an Astro-Zombie were beyond what I had expected. I cut a pretty young lady’s throat as she sat reading a magazine next to the swimming pool. I was also prepared to take a chop at fellow HORROR-WOOD writer Robert Taylor.

Two HORROR-WOOD writers...

The author and Robert Taylor

Ted instructed me to look into Robert’s eyes then spare his life and search for another victim. We’ll see if this scene makes the final cut. Robert Taylor also used his wonderful speaking voice for the role of Dr. DeMarco.

These were my Astro-Zombie Diaries, HORROR-WOOD readers. I am really looking forward to seeing the finished film.

Dr. DeMarco?

Mark of the Astro-Zombies will star Tura Satana (Faster Pussy Cat, Kill! Kill! and The Astro-Zombies), Victoria Munroe (Scream Queen), Shanti, Liz Renay and introduces Nina Tepes as the beautiful young lady who's shower gets "cut" short by an Astro-Zombie. The movie will be packed with scenes of blood thirsty, crazed, chopping Astro-Zombies.

Ted plans to have a preview ready for this fall. His next movies will be Return Of The Doll Squad and Little Green Men From Mars.

(Dennis Phelps is not only the Webmaster of The Ted V. Mikels Website, he's also created the great Harry Thomas Web Page.   Dennis is a knowledgeable collector of movie memorabilia.  You can check out his articles here and here and here.  Also, you can view a preview trailer of the new film here.)

Thanks, Dennis.  It's nice to see that TVM is still cranking out the fun schlock.  We look forward to seeing your film debut, too! 

Article copyright Dennis Phelps.   Some photographs courtesy of Scott Blacksher.

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